On Building, Scaling and Leading High-Performance Software Teams

Last week, I attended an insightful lecture about building and scaling high-performance software development teams by Marin Dimitrov, Engineering Manager at Uber and former CTO at semantic technology developer Ontotext. Special thanks goes out to Dev.bg, one of the most active IT communities in Bulgaria, for organizing the event as part of their IT Team Leads user group.

Anyway, I have some notes from the event that I decided to share with you. Some of them are from Marin’s presentation, others came about from the Q&A session, third are notes of ideas that came to me while I was listening. You might just find them to be interesting or useful.

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[Start of notes from Building, Scaling and Leading High-Performance Software Teams with Marin Dimitrov, a Dev.bg event:]

Why you need a culture deck for employees, not just a pitch deck for investors

You can’t know if (and when) you are hiring the right people unless you have defined your company’s culture and core values. Look at Google and Facebook. When hiring, they look first and foremost for cultural fit. If you haven’t thought of articulating your company culture before, Culture Codes is a good place to start. It links to the culture decks, core values, and mission statements of companies like Spotify, LinkedIn, Netflix and others.

To ensure consistency for your hiring process, train everyone who is involved in it

A few slides about your culture are not enough to create a streamlined hiring process, though. You need to train everyone involved in the interview process on how to beat their unconscious bias, focusing on what really matters about the candidate being interviewed for your company. Train your Human Resource people. Train your Team Leads and Developers who talk with candidates. Train everyone who is an ambassador of your company and its values in the labor market. Managing Unconscious Bias, a learning resource from Facebook, is an excellent place to start.

Having fast hiring process is not an advantage, but a market requirement

If you want to attract the best people in a competitive market such as the one for tech talent, you need a fast hiring process. Making your candidate wait more than two days between two steps in that process will either get him or her hired by a competitor, or disappointed with your company in comparison to your competitors’ speed. Because people talk to each other, it will be extremely hard for you to fix a reputation built over time for being slow and unresponsive.

Onboarding ‘the right people’ is just as important as hiring them

Marin recommends that you read the book The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategic for New Leaders at All Levels. What matters the most in onboarding is to get your people acquainted with your company, culture, processes, approach, and technology stack as soon and as smoothly as possible.

Employee journey maps: Personally, I would advise startup founders to explore their employee onboarding process as if they were exploring their customer/user onboarding process. Try to create an employee journey map that shows every step of an employee’s onboarding process in 3 or 6 months, taking in mind their experiences and frustrations. Denise Lee Yohn’s article at HBR, Design Your Employee Experience as Thoughtfully as You Design Your Customer Experience, is a good place to start reading about this topic.

Training platforms: Use platforms like Pluralsight and Coursedot to train your employees on the latest technologies, tools, and best practices. A relevant training process is a must when onboarding employees, with or without experience.

Individual career plans: To retain your employees and help them grow, both vertically (in hierarchy) and horizontally (in expertise), individual career planning is a must. Because most companies have no formalized process for this, their employees are often left clueless about what it will take them to reach the next level and get promoted. See the Khan Academy Engineering Career Development document as an example. Or the Google Manager Behaviors study and its outcomes, which determines the behaviors it takes to become a great manager at Google.

[End of notes]

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Here’s Marin’s embedded presentation on SlideShare:

Building, Scaling and Leading High-Performance Teams from Marin Dimitrov

Where to read more:

Innovation Manager at ICB, a software company. Curious about the technology of business and the business of technology.